Three hours before he was to lead tens of thousands of people in a march on Friday (July 1) afternoon, bookseller Lam Wing Kee pulled out from it.
Mr Lam, 61, had apparently received personal threats and it's for safety reasons that he had decided to abandon his plans, lawmaker Albert Ho told the media told the media at Victoria Park where the annual event was kicked off.
A yearly affair to mark the anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China in 1997, the march was kicked off by Mr Ching Cheong, 67, a former senior journalist with The Straits Times who was imprisoned for over 1,000 days in the mainland on charges of spying for Taiwan; and Mr Lau Shan Ching, 63, an activist imprisoned in the mainland for 10 years for "counter-revolutionary offences".
Mr Ching told The Straits Times that he sympathises with Mr Lam's situation but he did not think of withdrawing from the march as there is "no reason for us to withdraw from the fight against brutality".
Mr Ching was referring to the perceived brutality that him, Mr Lam and Mr Lau have received from mainland authorities.
Last month Mr Lam, one of five booksellers of Causeway Bay Books store, returned to Hong Kong and gave a startling account of his eight-month detention in the mainland.
Mr Ching said the march also aims to raise concerns over Hong Kongers personal safety.
Themed "At War with 689! Unite and defend our Hong Kong!" - in mocking reference to the number of votes Mr Leung received from the 1,200-member panel in 2012- the protesters are also calling for their Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying to step down.
Hong Kong July 1 march has always been seen as a barometer for public discontent with analysts expecting a bigger turnout this year, following the recent revelations by Mr Lam.
However less than half of the compound of the starting point was filled when the march was kicked off, in what appeared to be much a much lesser turnout than previous years.